Happy Birthday, Mr. Whitney Young
(July 31, 1921 - March 11, 1971)
Whitney Young worked in shadows of black progression during the civil rights struggle. He was indeed one of the formidable recognized leaders of the black populace. Mr. Whitney Young stood arm to arm and face to face with King, Malcolm, Powell, Evers, Baker, Wilkens, Farmer, Carmicheal, Hamer, Randolph, Muhammad, Rustin, as well as all the other black civil rights fighters and leaders. Who all sought the same objective with differing strategies, an equal helping at the plate of freedom and economic equality for people of color in these United States. As the decades passed since Mr. Young left this realm in the late winter of 1971 at the youthful age of 49. We have seen a lifting up of many of those figures who courageously put their personal health as well as their lives at the door of injustice, banging down that darkened door to allow a ray of light to shine on our communities across this nation. We have forgotten, or it seems the contribution of one Whitney Young, who opened the doors to a corporate world seemingly closed tight to men and women of color.
We should know that for more than a decade Whitney Young lead one of the most prominent organizations of the Black Community, The National Urban League. Whitney Young was welcomed into major boardrooms across this nation because he envisioned a newly designed world where the content one's character overwhelmed color of skin. He also must have known that his work, he advised 3 Presidents in his time with the National Urban League would go unrecognized because he was working behind the scenes with some of the country's most powerful economic forces. He sought neither fame of accolades. Whitney Young sought economic results. He was misunderstood by many of our community's most visible leaders. Congressman Adam Clayton Powell once referred to him as Whitey Young, has was constantly lambasted along with Roy Wilkens as being an Uncle Tom, an Oreo Cookie, an impediment to our attaining true civil rights. Yet, Whitney Young internalized all that community rebuke and continued to forge ahead to securing some semblance of economic fortification for people of color within this nation. At a time when we as young blacks were calling out for Black Power. Whitney Young said the following:
“You don’t get black power by chanting it. You get it by doing what the other groups have done. The Irish kept quiet. They didn’t shout “Irish Power”, “Jew Power”, [or] “Italian Power”. They kept their mouths shut and took over the police department of New York City, and the mayorship of Boston.”
–Whitney Young, 1968